We were asked along to see Before Breakfast who were playing on the same bill as Jim Ghedi and Toby Hay. This space is extended around an old blue Victorian lamplight, hence the evening venue name ‘The Lamplight Club’.
Before Breakfast are a three-piece all-female unit who are all classically trained and each brings something unique and contemporary to the group. We have Lucy Revis on cello, Gina Walters on vocals and Debra Finch on the keyboard.
Gina’s lyrics are written from her own experiences of life, of growing up and of finding her place in a world of inequality and prejudice, of judgement and disapproval. In her own words, she writes songs ‘that rise up from the insecure depths of womanhood.’ Her vocal range is unique yet her vocals occasionally drift into strains of Kate Bush through to Bjork and back again along a fine thread of strong female performers.
Their first performance of the evening is Fat Child. This is their first single, released March 2017. This slow rocking blend of harmonies strikes immediately then as the pace changes with a faster piano melody.
The simple “I was told to fade …” will resonate with so many women and men too on occasion.
‘Don’t listen to a single sad pathetic word,
Don’t listen to a single fucking thing you heard’
… is called out over ethereal undercurrents of the piano while “I will be right here’ is the defiant call we are left with.
My personal favourite came next: Something Good. We can all identify with that crushing pain of lost love and although initially,
Gina introduces the topic lightly and we laugh, she takes us on the dark and twisted path of her agonising first love affair.
“First time I fell in love was a truly deeply painful experience, I fell down the rabbit hole and I grazed both knees
I stumbled in …”
Elegant harmonies and exquisite instrumentation coax us into a dark fairy tale before trapping us within its pages.
Sticky Sweet gives us such beautiful high rolling harmonies that sting as they accompany the pain and anguish of a first love. Pure liquid gold vocals. The beautiful melody and powerful message is certainly the Before Breakfast signature.
Caravan is introduced lightly as a song about an adolescent holiday. Identification with this family break stuck away from the world is an all too familiar theme I would imagine with many of the audience here. However, it playfully growls the story of a girl grappling with a time of poor mental health and while again the melody and harmonies are light and graceful, we are dragged into a place of darkness and despair with this poor girl struggling to make sense of life.
Gina’s Bjork-esque vocals dance with velvety harmonies from Lucy and Debra along with the sweeping bow on the cello and the haunting keyboard melodies.
The rich, smooth cello solo allows us a moment to ponder on the lyrics until we are swept up again into a harmonious round of:
“I was a fool to expect
That I’d find myself
In a caravan on the coastline.”
Discussing the song afterwards with others around our lamplit table, this song resonated with many of us. It could speak of an adolescent moment in time as equally as it could tell us, as one identified, about someone who has stepped away from adulting for a while to make sense of the stresses of life and work
Journey growls through the audience and tells us again of a very human story, a love affair that was never to be. While initially, I wondered if this would primarily speak to the women in the audience we talked about how this story was well told and both the men and women at the table could identify with that feeling of unrequited love.
“I think I’ve seen this road before
This journey was over way back before it began.”
Body has to be one of the most powerful songs I have heard in a long time. One that really spoke to me. Their use of choppy cello to start then the sweeping rolling discord we recognise as their signature sound takes us on an emotional roller coaster:
“All I want is you…
I want to line all my best dresses with your love
All I want is the truth,
Is this really what my body is made of?”
As their set comes to a close, the hushed silence in the Lamplight Club speaks volumes.
The songs sang to many with such different experiences and here this shows the strength of Gina’s songwriting and the group’s collaboration. While initially, the songs seem to tell the stories from these girls’ perspectives, they, in fact, speak to all who find themselves in the lyrics.
Their first single Fat Child was released on 17th March 2017 and the made the English Rain April 2017 playlist.
Upcoming events include:
Archordia Strings Presents @ Merlin Theatre, Sheffield 10th June 2017
Before Breakfast Live@ The Shakespeare 30th June 2017
Tramlines @ The Hubs 22nd July 2017
Before Breakfast’s songs are as brave as they are brutally honest and they do not shy away from putting themselves out there for all to see. The comradery and funny stories they share before launching into each sombre and soul searching song redresses the balance.
An evening of melancholy and melody in equal measure.
KATE O BRIEN
PHOTOGRAPHY – MAL WHICHELOW